Jesus got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?" Jesus answered, "You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand." Peter said to him, "You will never wash my feet." Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no share with me." Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!"
Jesus said to him, "One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you." For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, "Not all of you are clean." After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord--and you are right, for that is what I am.
“So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them” (John 13: 4-17).
As I read through the Gospel of John, I paused on this scripture text about Jesus washing the feet of the disciples. This has always been a very meaningful act of humble service that has been a guiding principle in my ministry.
I remember when I was installed as your bishop in September of 2012. It was important for me to embrace and live into the example of Christ’s servant leadership, so one of my first acts as your bishop was to wash the feet of our then conference lay leader, Deanna Shimko. It was symbolic of my intentions to serve the Wisconsin Annual Conference and the church in humbleness, embodying grace, love and compassion.
I enter this Holy Week knowing who Jesus is – one who kneels before us, washes our feet, and calls us to love and serve all. It is a continued invitation to humbleness, to self-emptying, and to fully love.
As you know, I love to sing our faith! I especially love the hymn, “Jesu, Jesu” (#432 in the Hymnal), in its depiction of humble service. Composed by Tom Colvin, a pastoral missionary for the Church of Scotland in Ghana and Nyasaland, this hymn was written in Ghana for a people seeking equality, inclusion, and God’s salvation in Jesus Christ.
I hope you will take a moment to listen to this beautiful rendition from First United Methodist Church at Chicago Temple.
Prayer: Jesus, we ask that you help us to serve in humbleness, to love our neighbors more fully, to live lives worthy of you. We pray that, especially during this Holy Week, we seek ways to serve, to honor and glorify you. Fill us with your love. Amen.
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung has served as resident bishop of the Wisconsin Annual Conference since September of 2012. Prior to leading the Wisconsin Conference UMC, Bishop Jung served eight years as bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference (Chicago area).